From a reader:
Hey Shawn and Beth…I have one question …what in the world are we to do with Japanese Stilt grass? will the sheep eat it? seems they do not but have lots left of things they like better…its so invasive but too large in the paddock to pull…read about corn gluten meal but that seems like over kill…and time consuming and slows new seed germination of everything else…
Hi, M. P.! Of course we remember you! The beautiful sign next to the front door of our guest house always makes us think of you.
So, japanese stilt grass. An annual grass, aggressive. Invasive in the U.S. starting in the early 1900’s. Grows well in low-light areas, like under trees, which gives it an advantage over competing species; inadequately grazed by deer, so it establishes, persists, and spreads. It’s always spooky when something new comes into the pasture and starts to dominate! But here’s good news:
We did some asking around among graziers, and everyone says their sheep and cows eat Japanese stilt grass just fine. Some mentioned that they had been able to eradicate it with grazing, when that was the goal. If your sheep don’t seem to be grazing it adequately, there are several tactics you can employ to encourage them:
First, you could just minimize paddock size using temporary fence. Crowd them down onto smaller paddocks, ideally only one day’s grazing, and reduce their forage options. Let them graze it closer than you would allow them to do on a forage you want to keep. Bring them back often — as soon as it reaches a few inches in height — and graze again, and again, to disadvantage it.
Another tactic when an unfamiliar forage species is being overlooked by the animals is to bait it with something they like. Take away their salt block for a few days, then spray the stilt grass with a mild salt solution. Some stock salt dissolved in warm water and then applied with a garden sprayer (make sure it hasn’t previously been used for anything nasty) should increase the palatability. Or use a bit of molasses diluted with water. (This tactic carries a caveat: you have to know that the species you are spraying isn’t toxic. You don’t want to trick them into eating a toxic/medicinal species unknowingly; although forage-savvy grazing animals can eat many such plants knowingly, as self-medication, their ability to recognize the plant and determine dosage shouldn’t be compromised.)
I would try making smaller paddocks first, as the most natural way of encouraging them to graze the stilt grass, as well as the least work for you. Least intervention is generally the best. Best of luck to you.
reply from the reader:
Great advice! we are actually in process of sectioning off off smaller paddocks for grazing and when checking just yesterday noted that they DO seem to be eating the stilt grass..especially after it has dried a bit…and I love the spray idea–my sheep all have a sweet tooth–I think they would eat a dead rat if I covered it with a bit of molasses water!